NFL Odds: Buccaneers vs. Panthers
The Buccaneers are coming off a 38-3 blowout loss to the Saints — Tampa Bay allowed four touchdowns over New Orleans’ first five drives while the Bucs gained only 26 yards on their own first five drives by contrast.
Our own Chris Raybon may have found the reason for Tom Brady’s struggles in late-night games: Tom Brady’s 8:30 p.m. bedtime. The good news for Brady and the Buccaneers is their game on Sunday is at 1 p.m. ET and, more importantly, Brady is 44-21 against the spread coming off a loss.
Brady’s success off losses has followed him to Tampa in his two opportunities this season, as the Buccaneers beat the Panthers in Week 2 (31-17) then the Packers in Week 6 (38-10) in this spot.
I like a motivated Brady with a full complement of weapons to bounce back and win big. Let’s examine why.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In their first meeting against the Panthers this season, the Bucs made a statement quickly, jumping out to a 14-0 lead before the end of the first quarter.
Mike Evans was a handful for Carolina in Week 2, recording 104 yards and a touchdown. But an injury to Chris Godwin kept him out of that game, and the supporting cast would do little to help as eight passes were dropped while the second and third target leaders were LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette. Now Godwin is healthy, and with the addition of Antonio Brown, both should help mitigate those drop numbers and make things even more difficult for Carolina’s defensive backs.
New Orleans was able to slow down the passing attack for Tampa Bay using its ferocious defensive front, but this won’t be as easy for Carolina, as three of its four starters on the defensive line have Pro Football Focus grades worse than 60.
If the Buccaneers can give Brady a clean pocket, the sky will be the limit for this offense.
The Bucs have played as one of the best defenses in the NFL, allowing the ninth-fewest points per game and fourth-fewest yards per game. The path to success has been relatively simple too: First, stop the run (the Buccaneers are first in yards per rushing attempt allowed). Second, pressure the quarterback (the Buccaneers are first in blitz rate per Pro Football Reference).
Cornerback Carlton Davis was limited in practice on Friday and is listed as questionable. His status is important to monitor, as he’s allowed a quarterback rating of only 57.9 and would be in charge of covering either Robby Anderson or D.J. Moore.
The Panthers have been one of the NFL’s streakiest teams this season, losing their first two games then winning three straight. Now they find themselves in the middle of a four-loss streak.
An inability to finish drives has been one of the main reasons for their losses, as they rank 15th in yards per game but 26th in touchdowns per game. Missing running back Christian McCaffrey is one of the reasons they’ve been unable to get into the end zone. Despite only playing in three games, he still leads their position players with six touchdowns.
During their win streak, it looked like the Panthers defense had begun to figure things out, holding teams to fewer than 21 points. However, they looked like their old selves over the past last three weeks, giving up an average of 28 points and 404 yards per game.
While the defense has struggled, there have been a couple of bright spots — most notably, defensive end Brian Burns ranks sixth in PFF grade at the edge position. However, the struggles of the rest of the unit have made Burns’ efforts hard to notice, as they still rank seventh-worst in pressure rate as a team.
Even worse, they were unable to get even a single pressure on Brady in that Week 2 matchup.
One of the scariest things in sports is Brady after a loss. Make that a nationally televised, humiliating, blowout loss, and things are even worse.
He’ll have the Buccaneers’ offense ready to prove that last week was a fluke and they’re more like the team that destroyed the Packers and Raiders than the team that showed up last Sunday night.
An extra week of practice for Brown should help the timing and chemistry with Brady, so the former All-Pro could have a larger impact than three catches for 31 yards.
The Panthers’ defense will need to get to Brady if they hope to slow him down, and with one of the worst defensive fronts in terms of pressuring the quarterback, that is easier said than done.
This could come down to the ability of the Panthers offense to keep pace with the Bucs, but the Panthers have been forced to settle for field goals too often to think their offense will be able to score at the necessary rate.
PICK: Buccaneers -5.5